Is there really anything to celebrate in Egypt today?
On this, the first anniversary of the uprising in Tahrir Square, I find myself being congratulated on the revolution by well-meaning individuals. I am often asked about the positive changes taking place in my homeland.
I see disappointment on people's faces when I tell them there is nothing to celebrate yet. Except for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and his government, you see, very little has changed.
The 18-day revolution that began in Tahrir Square came only a day or two after my return to Boston from a family visit in Cairo. We hoped it would be peaceful and bring change, but this is what has happened:
Freedom of the press and basic human rights are worse than they were at this time last year. Buildings that hold valuable books are being set ablaze. Police shoot to maim and disfigure. Civilians are being dragged into military courts.
All this while the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military junta that currently runs the country, is rumored to be planning 18 days of "celebration" to commemorate the Jan. 25 revolution that has turned Cairo into a city of mayhem and chaos, and the neighborhoods surrounding Tahrir Square into enclaves more reminiscent of a war zone.
I spent New Year's Eve 2011 in Tahrir Square. There I reveled at the chants calling for "blessings to my country," while feeling profound sadness as I watched Egyptians ask simply for basic human rights and freedoms. There was so much discussion about what would happen next. Would Jan. 25 be declared a national holiday commemorating the revolution, or stay as it was — a day to honor the police force?
As in the rest of the divided country, there will be people who go out today in an attempt to reignite what started a year ago. They will continue demonstrating and demand real change. Others will honor those who died. Many will stay home, fearful of potential backlash by the military, which is rumored to be receiving new shipments of tear gas in preparation. Still others will protest against those who want change, supporting instead SCAF's effort for stabilization. Thugs and opportunists will make use of the crowds, accepting cash to incite a ruckus.
Most wish the protesters would stop so they can regain their lives and see an end to the uncertainty.
And yet there has been change, although not so visible. If there is anything to celebrate, it would be the change that has come to the Egyptian psyche — the belief that there is potential for things to improve.
It is the change that has taken place in the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people. They are displaying a newfound confidence, and relishing the opportunity to talk, think and consider their country's future. Although there is anger fueled by continued injustice, there is also hope for a better future.
As for me, I will be in my Salem office, carrying on business as usual and anxiously waiting for the latest updates from home. Last year, I was hopeful, proud and optimistic. I feel differently today, for it is not entirely clear to me yet what the Egyptian people are supposed to be celebrating.
The time to celebrate is when something repressive and inherently bad has ended and positive change has come to fruition. For Egypt, that time has not yet come.
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Yasmine Saleh, Psy.D., completed her doctorate at Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology and is currently doing a postdoctoral internship in counseling and health services at Salem State University.